Patricia Hofer

Mother Teresa and “quietism”

“Think before you speak but do not speak all that you think.” I hesitate to share this Chinese proverb because I’m so bad at practicing it. I might think before I speak, but that doesn’t slow me down! I share my latest thoughts anyway. … Peter had to have regretted saying, “You will never wash my feet,” when he didn’t understand Jesus’ intention (NRSV John 13:8). … Peter Gomes in The Good Book described his encounter with Mother Teresa and what he called her “quietism.” He wrote that he tried to make conversation with her as she waited in his office. He complimented her on her work in Calcutta, and she said only, “It is Jesus” (227). Now this didn’t impress Gomes very much. He saw her as being “tough and crusty.” … But really, when you think about Mother Teresa’s response, what more needed to be said? Besides the humility of not speaking, she protected herself against the danger of proudly saying too much, of being misquoted.
Certainly, during such confrontations, I’ve rarely been able to “hold my peace.” That is how the New Testament would phrase it. The varying Greek words used there for peace generally include the idea of being quiet or keeping silent and, in one instance, even being muzzled! With that in mind, I’ve found it helpful to reread this from James: “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace [quietness] for those who make peace [are quiet]” (NRSV 3:18). Enough said. (Drawn from Turning Aside to See, chapter 24. ©️ 2011)

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